Downtown road project nears closure, constructionAfter years of planning, it won’t be long now and Tower Avenue north of Belknap Street closes as sections of the road are torn up.
By: Shelley Nelson, Superior Telegram
After years of planning, it won’t be long now and Tower Avenue north of Belknap Street closes as sections of the road are torn up.
Bids for the estimated $7 million project are due next week and construction is expected to get underway next month.
The Wisconsin Department of Transportation is planning to reconstruct about one mile of Tower Avenue — State Highway 35 — from Belknap to North Third Street for the first time since 1935. Some of the concrete is nearly 100 years old.
Plans include replacing combined sewers constructed in the 1880s 15 feet below the road’s surface with storm and sanitary lines, installing new water lines, and replacing sidewalks, parking and street lighting in addition to some side street work.
The goal is to complete the project this year.
When the construction season ends, downtown Superior will have a new look and provide pedestrians added safety.
The entire look and feel of Tower Avenue is going to change, said Kaye Tenerelli, director of the Superior Business Improvement District.
“I hope the community will embrace it as a place they want to be,” Tenerelli said. “I think that the walking public and driving public are immediately going to be aware of the safety impact that has happened on this project.”
She said WisDOT thoroughly investigated pedestrian and traffic safety issues in the area, found funding and designed the project to correct glaring problems on North Tower Avenue.
There were a significant number of pedestrian accidents, issues concerning visibility and speed that will be addressed, said Stephanie King, design project lead for WisDOT.
From her office in the Old Post Office, Tenerelli said she can watch pedestrians cross the very wide road with no pedestrian safety features.
“Some choices we made in the design shorted the crossing distance,” King said. She said some of those features, such as curb bump-outs, will provide pedestrians with greater visibility while shortening the distance they have to cross. Where possible, there will also be places where pedestrians can take refuge from oncoming traffic, she said.
While officials are thrilled with the new amenities and opportunities the project will bring, concern lingers because Tower Avenue will close for the duration of the project as the contractor works to replace sewers 15 feet below the road’s surface and water lines under the road before its reconstructed.
It’s a project that is happening in an area that is home to many businesses.
Plans are in the works to make sure business owners concerns and questions are addressed, and the BID has a plan to make sure the public can still access their favorite businesses.
Business- and land-owners can attend weekly meetings with the contractor during the project to learn more about the ongoing schedule. However, King said that information will also be posted on WisDOT’s Tower Avenue project website or they can sign up for email alerts to keep up with the project.
WisDOT will also be working with the city and BID to address issues when they arise, King said.
“That’s worked really well on our other projects,” Tenerelli said. “This is not our first go-round. I think we’ve got that down to a pretty workable activity, and I think the property and business owner really appreciate having access. They may not like what’s going on. They may have a lot of angst about it, but if they are informed up front, they can deal with it.
Accessing businesses in the construction zone is going to change; however the DOT plans to keep some cross streets along Tower Avenue open so people can move back and forth between Ogden and Banks avenues. King said either Winter or Broadway will be open throughout the project, and public transit, which normally runs on Tower Avenue will be rerouted along Ogden Avenue during the project. Alternating cross streets will ensure people don’t have to travel too far to get across, King said.
The Business Improvement District has also developed a tool kit for downtown business owners to help them promote and guide customers to their businesses. Just look for the entrance sign with the construction cone to find the entrances on the side and backdoors.
“The backdoor access is the access to the building,” Tenerelli said. “We’ve gone out to the businesses and talked to them … and resolved the issues as best we could. Every business will have access and their back doors are critical.”
And business owners will have two opportunities to get more information on the project next week.
From 7:30 to 9 a.m. and noon to 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, the city, BID and WisDOT are hosting meetings in the Lake Superior Room, Wisconsin Department of Transportation, 1701 N. Fourth St., Superior. Enter by the DMV lobby.
Each meeting includes a formal presentation and an opportunity to get your questions answered.
For more information about the project or to sign up for email updates, go to www.dot.state.wi.us/projects/wis35towerave.